Posts Tagged Qualifying

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for 10th victory of 2015

Erica Enders Pomona 2015 Auto Club Finals

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders has already captured the biggest prize in the Pro Stock class of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: the 2015 championship. But the two-time series champion is far from finished with the season. Enders is a nine-time winner in 2015, meaning she already holds the record for most wins in a season by a woman, but she wants No. 10.

“I’m proud that we locked the championship up last weekend,” Enders said. “But I’m going into tomorrow with the mindset that I want to win No. 10 on the season. That is my job, that is my goal, and that is what I will do.”

Enders, who clinched the championship during her victory in Las Vegas, qualified No. 2 for the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a stellar pass of 6.503 seconds at 213.33 mph.

“That was our first decent run of the weekend,” Enders said. “Obviously, that’s nice to be able to go to sleep on Saturday night with that run. (No. 1 qualifier) Greg (Anderson) made a killer run and he had us by a hundredth in the 60-foot, and that’s what he outran us by. We know where we need to improve.”

Enders starts her pursuit of victory No. 10 on Sunday against V. Gaines, who qualified No. 15 with a top pass of 6.570 seconds at 211.63 mph.

“We have a great race-day setup,” Enders said. “That’s something my guys are excellent at, giving me a fast, consistent race car on Sunday. We’ve proven all year that’s what it takes to win, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Enders will also keep an eye on Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman, who qualified No. 4 and is on opposite sides of the ladder from her. Skillman, the leading contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as the NHRA’s top rookie, is fourth in the points standings but has a shot at finishing second.

Enders is also looking to cap a spectacular Countdown to the Championship, in which she has won three of the five races in the playoffs, including two in a row. Plus, she has raced to the final in four of the five Countdown races.

With championship in reach, Erica Enders snares No. 1 spot in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — First things first.

Erica Enders, the 2014 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and current points leader, grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot for the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, she can clinch her second consecutive championship.

Enders increased her points lead to 162 over the Pro Stock field by being quickest in all four rounds in Las Vegas. She needs to finish the race with a 151-point lead to wrap up the title.

“Tomorrow is going to take consistency,” Enders said. “I say it all the time: A to B, focus one round at a time. Every round is tough. There are no gimmes in Pro Stock. I know better than anybody that you can go from hero to zero really quickly.

“Las Vegas has been really great for me in the past, so I’m looking forward to continuing that trend tomorrow. We’re going to just do our best and see what happens. My goal is to not think about the championship, even though everyone keeps asking me about it. I want to win the race, and that is my first goal. Tomorrow is one round at a time.”

Drivers receive 20 points for each round victory, so Enders needs to match or exceed the performance of her closest competitors in the points race, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Drew Skillman, Allen Johnson, etc.

Otherwise, Enders would take a sizable lead to the final race of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 13-15 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif.

But after earning her sixth No. 1 of the season and 18th of her career, Enders is focused on winning the race, too. She has won three national events in a row in Las Vegas, and counting the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, Enders has won 18 rounds in a row here.

That prowess continued into this weekend, as her track-record pass of 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph earned her the No. 1 spot. That run was Friday, but she was also quick in the two qualifying sessions Saturday.

“We did have some great runs today,” Enders said. “Today’s conditions were a little bit different than yesterday’s. It was obviously warmer, so the track was warmer. We made two really nice, consistent passes just getting ready for tomorrow. It is going to be the warmest of the three but not much warmer than today.

“I’m excited that we were able to make those four consistent passes and fine-tune some things. I am confident going into tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens.”

Erica Enders smashes Las Vegas track records to earn provisional pole

Erica Enders Las Vegas 2015 Countdown

LAS VEGAS, NV — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team aren’t trying to cruise to their second straight title, but they threw down a monster pass in the second qualifying session of the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

The run, 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph, set track records for elapsed time and speed and it was the fastest corrected run in Pro Stock history — taking into account altitude and other factors — at 6.381 seconds at 216.65 mph.

“I’m glad we were able to accomplish it,” Enders said. “Having said that, we’ve got two more important runs tomorrow. We need to scoop up all the qualifying bonus points we possibly can and try to stay on the pole. We need to go into Sunday with our heads down and get to work. We’ve got a lot to accomplish still, and I want to win the race. I want to make it four in a row. I couldn’t be more proud to be their driver; they’re an awesome group of men.”

Enders needs to leave Las Vegas with a 151-point lead to clinch the championship. She came into the race 154 points ahead, padding that by three based on qualifying points from the first two sessions.

Plus, she has been dominant in Las Vegas over the past two years, sweeping both national events in 2014 and winning here in April. To go along with those two victories, Enders has won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge here the last two years.

“I think we have 18 consecutive round-wins here, and the goal is to get to 22,” Enders said. “Having said that, we go back to taking things one at a time. My guys performed really well here, and my crew chiefs seem to have a good handle on this track and the dry air.

“Our race car is working. We stumbled onto some stuff in Dallas that we had been working really hard to figure out. As most people watched, they could see our performance change a little bit on Sunday. We certainly translated that to here. I’m excited and cautiously optimistic to be in the position we’re in.”

Enders has been quickest in both qualifying sessions this weekend, but her Q2 pass was the most impressive.

“We made a good run in the first session,” Enders said. “The weather (for Q2) was actually not as good as it was for the first session, so we really just stepped on it. I could not be more proud of my team. Our Elite Performance horsepower is really showing through right when we need it most. Pair that with our excellent teamwork, and my driving has been pretty decent lately. The sky is the limit for us.

“That run was pretty hateful. Of course, my guys got back to the computers in the trailer and were nit-picking, trying to be perfectionists about it. That’s what makes them as great as they are.”

Points leader Erica Enders now has destiny in her hands at crucial Dallas race


DALLAS, TX — Race day at the 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals could very well go down as the one that decides the Pro Stock championship with the top three drivers in the Mello Yello points stacked up for early head-to-head battles when eliminations begin Sunday at Texas Motorplex.

Current points leader and reigning NHRA champion Erica Enders has a slight advantage in her Elite Motorsports Camaro as she outqualified both second-ranked driver Greg Anderson and third-place Chris McGaha, who won the last race in Reading, Pa.

Adding a huge dose of intrigue, Anderson and McGaha are slotted to face one another in the opening round, with Enders getting the winner of that head-to-head match should she manage to beat Vieri Gaines in her Round 1 race. The end result is that only one of the three top drivers in the points has a chance to reach the semifinals.

“Wow, it’s crazy the way the elimination ladder worked out,” Enders said. “Greg and Chris facing each other right off is a huge race. Greg outqualified him (6.484 to 6.518) but Chris did win Reading, so he could score an upset.

“We just need to take care of business against V., which will not be easy, and we need to win with a good-enough elapsed time to try and maintain lane choice for the winner of Greg and Chris’ race. It’s a ton of pressure, but we work best under pressure, and I think our track record proves that point.”

Enders, who tops the NHRA charts with seven victories this year, had a best pass of 6.480 at 213.47 mph, which slotted her fourth overall, a few ticks behind her teammate Drew Skillman, who took the pole with a 6.471. In Round 1, she will enjoy lane choice over Gaines, who had a best pass of 6.543 at 209.39 mph. Enders is 4-0 versus Gaines this season.

“V. is my buddy and a true gentleman racer,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “But I’ll tell you what, when he’s at the line, he’s going for the win every time. He’s a very tough draw.

“We’ll go into race day like we do every weekend: with a desire to be the quickest and the fastest car on the property. We’ll double- and triple-check everything on the car and we’ll be ready for whatever happens. The guys know what’s a stake here. This is a team full of champions.”

Enders entered the weekend 72 points ahead of Anderson and 104 points up on McGaha. Each round won on race day is worth 20 points.

“It’s not a total do-or-die race because we’ve got a little cushion in the standings and we’ve still got Las Vegas and Pomona on the schedule,” Enders said, “but we could sure make it tough on them if we can turn on the win light four times tomorrow. We need to take care of business and I need to do my job behind the wheel. I love it; having our fate in our hands is what we want.”

Reigning champ and current points leader Erica Enders staying afloat in Reading

READING, PA — Two days of intermittent rain washed out three of the four scheduled qualifying sessions of the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, but reigning series champ and current Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports teammates were ready for the lone run they were afforded, qualifying sixth with a safe 6.537-second pass at 213.13 mph.

“It’s always nerve-racking going down a track when the surface temperature is 60 degrees, it’s really cold and damp and the dew point is way up there, but that’s where my guys really show how great they are,” Enders said. “We just went up there and made a very, very conservative run because we really didn’t know at that point if we’d get another session in or if it would start raining again.

“We played it safe and although the car kinda moved around a little bit and the tires were spinning, we got in the top half of the field, which is really what you want. Obviously, the e.t. we posted by no means shows our hand, so I’m really excited for tomorrow.”

Enders has been to four final rounds in a row, winning three races in a row before settling for runner-up against her teammate Drew Skillman last weekend in St. Louis. She entered the weekend 113 points ahead of her closest rival in the points, which equates to almost six rounds of elimination racing. There are only 16 rounds left in the season, so a big race day here could make it very tough on the other contenders.

“It’s been one of those weekends when we just wait and wait and wait,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “Honestly, it’s more exhausting doing nothing than when you’re busy. They say tomorrow is supposed to look better weather-wise and we’re all excited about that for sure. Once again I’m on the opposite side of the ladder from Drew, so we will just see if we can go to work tomorrow, repeat what happened in St. Louis, and spread the gap on everyone else.”

As the No. 6 qualifier, Enders will open elimination action with lane choice over part-time racer Kenny Delco, who posted a 6.606 at 207.15 mph in his lone trip down Maple Grove.

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m., with ESPN2 carrying all the action Sunday evening.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders chases fourth straight win from No. 3 spot

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ST. LOUIS, MO — NHRA Pro Stock World Champion and currents points leader Erica Enders will be gunning for her fourth consecutive victory when she begins eliminations at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park from the No. 3 position Sunday.

Enders, driving the Elite Motorsports/Transportation Impact Chevrolet, will also be chasing her third victory in her last four races at Gateway, having won here in 2012 and 2013.

“We’ve got a consistent race car,” Enders said. “I’m really proud of my guys. It’s easy to not be slightly disappointed when you’re not on top but know what you are capable of, but at the same time, we’re third and we’re going into Sunday with a four-round points lead. Plus, I’m on opposite sides of the ladder from my teammate Drew (Skillman). I’m hopeful for a really long Sunday.”

Enders came to Gateway with an 83-point lead after winning the first race of the Countdown to the Championship last weekend in Charlotte. Greg Anderson accumulated eight more bonus points through qualifying, but Enders has still been very fast here. Her best pass was 6.508 seconds at 212.13 mph to qualify fourth or better for the 16th time in 20 races. The previous 15 times she has qualified fourth or better in 2015, she has scored seven victories, raced to eight finals, and reached 13 semifinals.

“We didn’t accumulate the bonus points that we would’ve liked this weekend,” Enders said. “But we’ll take those 20-point swings for winning a round. I’m optimistic going into Sunday. I know that my consistent race car is more than capable of being driven to the winner’s circle.

“Sometimes Sunday is about survival of the fittest, not the fastest. That’s what we’ve been blessed to be able to accomplish the last couple of weeks.”

Enders set an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots — in Brainerd, Minn., Indianapolis, and Charlotte — but she brushed aside the accomplishment.

“For starters, that’s my job,” Enders said. “I don’t know what all the hoopla is about. But we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of really cool firsts, and that’s another one to add to the book. The way I look at it is as long as that win light comes on, I don’t care how we get it.”

Enders begins her race at Gateway against Alex Laughlin, who qualified No. 14 with a top lap of 6.561 seconds at 211.63 mph.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders will begin title defense from No. 3 spot in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders begins her title defense on Sunday from the No. 3 qualifying position at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Enders sits atop the Pro Stock points standings as the six-race Countdown to the Championship begins here this weekend, and she has shown plenty of speed and consistency during qualifying. Her best pass was 6.536 seconds at 211.83 mph, and she races Vieri Gaines in the first round of eliminations Sunday. Gaines qualified No. 14 with a top lap of 6.670 at 210.05 mph.

With the warmest temperatures of the weekend expected Sunday, Pro Stock drivers and teams will need to negotiate a difficult track, but Enders knows her Elite Motorsports team will be up to the challenge.

“We’re going to have a long day cut out for us tomorrow,” Enders said. “It’s going to be the hottest day of the weekend, and I think it’s going to be survival of the fittest.

“That makes me happy because I know what my guys are capable of. When the racetrack is in great condition and the weather’s just right, everybody can run well, but when things are not wonderful is when we really seem to excel. I’m speaking optimistically and am hopeful that tomorrow is a long day.”

Three of Enders’ four qualifying passes were within .015-second, showing the consistency needed to win on race day. In Q3, Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro suffered a damaged engine, but her team replaced it and made a solid pass in the heat of the day, 6.551 seconds at 211.53 mph.

“We started off on the right foot: We were low for the first session,” Enders said. “When we went up for Q2, we had some interesting things happen, and we hurt a motor today, so it’s definitely been an interesting weekend so far.

“We wrapped up qualifying with a decent, race-day prep run and ended up being third-quickest for the session, so that’s good.”

Enders is a six-time winner in 2015, including the last Pro Stock races on the schedule. The most recent was the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, where she beat Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the final.

“Right now, my teammate and I are on opposite sides of the ladder,” Enders said, “so that’s fun if you want to look forward and see what could potentially happen.”

Pro Stock eliminations are scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for first U.S. Nationals victory

Erica Enders - 2015 U.S. Nationals qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders has already accomplished a lot in her career, from winning the 2014 Pro Stock World Championship to piling up 17 professional victories — one short of matching Shirley Muldowney for second among winningest female drivers — but she still has one big thing remaining on her bucket list: win the U.S. Nationals.

Enders has a good shot at it in 2015, as she has qualified No. 4 for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“It’d be pretty awesome to win,” said Enders, a runner-up at Indy in 2012. “It would rank right up there with the championship and winning in your hometown. It’s the biggest race of the year, and I would be ecstatic if we won it.”

There is plenty more on the line for Enders and her team. She is first in the Pro Stock points standings with one race remaining before the Countdown to the Championship, and the U.S. Nationals pays 1.5 times the normal amount of points.

“It’s very crucial for us because it’s worth a point and a half,” Enders said. “I’d really like to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position, so we’re going to fight tooth and nail for it Monday and see what happens.”

Enders’ best qualifying pass was 6.571 seconds at 210.54 mph, just .009-second off the No. 1 qualifier.

“The car is good,” Enders said. “We lost a session Friday because of the weather. Saturday morning, after 95 percent of my burnout, a coil wire came off, and we weren’t able to make that run, which put us first pair out for the third session.

“We had to be very conservative in Pro Stock, being first pair out on a racetrack like that,” Enders said. “We made a very good run and were No. 1 for a while before we ended up No. 4.”

Then on Sunday, Enders was third-quickest in each session. She’ll face No. 13 qualifier Vieri Gaines in the first round Monday after Gaines had a pass of 6.620 at 209.01 mph.

“Monday is definitely going to be tricky,” said Enders, the most recent winner on the Pro Stock tour in Brainerd, Minn. “It’s going to be hot, and that makes my crew chiefs’ jobs very interesting, but I’m fortunate to have three of the best the business has ever seen. I know they’ll give me a fast, consistent race car, and if I get up on the wheel, there’s no reason we can’t have a repeat of Brainerd.”

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